Review: Allstate Hot Chocolate 15k Race – Charlotte

Disclaimer: I received free entry to Hot Chocolate 15k as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!


Race Prep & Signup

In a previous post I’d talked about signing up for the Hot Chocolate 15k in Charlotte, and how I had to upload “proof” of previous race times to get assigned a corral on race day.

I received an email after a couple of weeks to say I had been assigned to corral “D”. I had no idea at the time what that would look like except that they started the corrals off 4 mins apart from each other.

Training for the race consisted of my regular weekday runs with slightly longer runs at the weekend. The two weeks before Christmas that I was out with Vertigo set me back both mentally and physically, and I got a little concerned that my target of a 8.30/mi would be hard to achieve.


Race Information

The Hot Chocolate website very informative and well laid out. The participant guide had all the information I needed to know — like course details, expo details, race day experience, gear check, after party, etc. I felt well prepared heading into the race weekend.


The race shirts! Amazing. I had my bib and shirt mailed to me about a week before the race. I wasn’t sure at the time I registered that I would be able to get to the Expo or not, so this was a very convenient option.

The medals look good — good enough to eat. They look like a big bar of chocolate. My kids were very impressed with it. All the Hot Chocolate races use the same medal and attach an additional little emblem to represent the city in which you’re racing.

Hotel & Expo

This was my first time travelling and staying in a hotel to race. The hotel we stayed in was the only hotel recommended by the Hot Chocolate website. They offered a discounted rate for race participants.

It was really convenient staying at the same location as the Expo. I covered more about the hotel in my pre-race update.

I do wish that breakfast was available just a little earlier. They didn’t open until 7am, so I had to skip breakfast since I needed to get to the starting line. I believe it was possible to order breakfast to your room from 6am.

Race Day

I probably got up too early on race day. I hate being late for things. I crept around the family in our hotel room, got ready and went downstairs to check the weather. It was supposed to be raining all morning but thankfully the rain was nothing more than a slight drizzle. Yes!

It was a nice 50°F outside as well. Close to perfect running weather really.


The start line was about a 15 min walk from the hotel. There was a runners staying at the hotel, but I didn’t really notice too many people walking. Again, probably because I was a little early.

When I got to the start line, there was only a few of the 5K participants hanging around. The 5K race was due to start at 7.45 am. It was at this time I realized how the Corrals were going to work. They were basically just markers along the road that divided it into sections. The 5K had 3 Corrals – A, B and C.

I couldn’t help thinking if they started the 5K just a little earlier they could offer a double challenge like a lot of races are starting to do these days. 🙂

After the 5K race got on their way, it was time for the 15K participants to get into position. To my surprise the A, B, and C Corrals were removed and Corral D was at the very front. I’d never started at the front of a race before. I was pretty pumped about that!


The countdown started, it was time, 5…4…3…2…1!

Mile-by-Mile Walkthrough

Starting Line: Yeah! I get to start the front! Plenty of room up here! Let’s do this. I’ll just tuck in here behind the 8:30/mi pacer.

Mile 1: Hey, I’ve left the 8.30/mi crowd behind in the dust. Yeah, baby! This half-mile downhill is awesome! Hang on — what goes down…


Mile 2: Oh oh. Here’s some up hill. This freaking hill is over a mile long. I’m dying. 8 miles to go!

Mile 3:  That was tough. Looks like the course is starting to level out now. Time to eat some Honey Stingers to see if I can get some pep back in my step. I think I need to pee. Dang it.

Mile 4: Well, the 8.30/mi crowd has caught back up with me. I have to stay with these guys now for the duration. Have to…. COME ON!

Mile 5: Should I stop to pee? No. Oh, there’s a guy using a porta-potty on that building site. Maybe I should stop. No, I can’t!

Mile 6: Asking random people if they know of any more hills. I already know the answer to this, but I still gotta ask. I’m running up a hill right now.

Mile 7: Now this is feeling good. Finally, getting in the groove. Let’s do this.


Mile 8: Oh my legs are soooo heavy. How far is 15k anyway? Is that a little granny racing ahead of me? How does she do that?! I’m taking you down, granny!

Mile 9: The pacer is getting away from me. Wait, he’s running back. Says we’re nearly there! Time to spend all I’ve got!!!

Finish Line: Oh man, check out my stride. I’m flying here… straight through the finish line!! I did it!



I crossed the finish line with 1:18:26 on the clock, 8.25/mi pace. I was really happy with that. I set an aggressive goal and beat it. I immediately began reassessing my goals for future races (particularly the Half Marathon I have in March).

I loved how they called everyone’s name out as they passed the finish line. That was a really nice touch that I’ve not seen done before. As I watched other participants come through you could see the smile it brought to their faces.


Post-Race Party

I made my way to the post race party area to claim my finishers mug. I’m not a big hot chocolate drink fan, but the actual real melted chocolate that was in the mug was soooooo good. There was also a number of items to dip in the chocolate — banana, pretzel, cookies and more.


It had been raining all night, so the grass area where the party was held got muddy very quickly. This is where my family met up with me after the race. My daughter was plugging her nose because of the 2000 sweaty individuals that surrounded her. 😉

Another runner was kind enough to offer her a spare finishers mug token that he had, so that cheered her up a bit!

Live Tracking

This was a great service. My wife was able to sign up to this free service prior to the race. During the race it sent her text messages on my progress. Very cool feature. It sent updates on 5K, 10K and finishing paces.


Race Photos

I noticed quite a few photographers on course and the race photos were completely free. I’d probably never buy a race photo because I look dead in most of them, but I love it when they’re free to download and keep.

As soon as the race had finished, race photos were being updated to the results page. New photos continued to appear on there throughout the day.

BibRave Pros

It was good to meet some of my fellow BibRave pros at the race. I bumped into Teddy before the race started, and then met Lissa afterward. It was not hard to find the bright orange BibRave gear against the grey backdrop.


Be Brilliant, Be Seen!

Disclaimer: I received reflective strips from Brilliant Reflective to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!

Most of my weekday runs happen before the sun comes up, so that means a lot of road running in the dark. It wasn’t long ago I read a post on our community Facebook page complaining about runners seen early in the morning wearing dark clothing. Yep, that was referring to our running club for sure, and a warning that we were not doing enough to be visible.

If any of this sounds familiar to you, then you need to hear about Brilliant Reflective strips. They are highly reflective strips that you can apply to your clothes (or other items) and come in both stick-on and iron-on packs.


This is exactly why I’m loving being a BibRave Pro. I get to review running products that I actually can use, and will continue to use long after my review is posted.

To test out these strips, I applied some of the blue (yes, they come in different colors) stick-on strips to the front and back of one of my running shirts. The actual guidance for these strips is — anything that you would wash, use the iron-on pack, and for anything that isn’t washed, use the stick-on pack.

Yes, I do wash my running shirt, but I wanted to see just how durable the stick-on strips were. 🙂


The packaging is really easy to open and inside contains lots of information regarding best application. I applied two to the back, and two to the front. It’s similar to applying a band-aid. There is a break in the backing which you peel off, and then simply stick the strip on your garment and press down.

If you make a mistake, you can remove the strip and re-position within the first 10 or so seconds. After that the adhesive takes a stronger hold. You also don’t need to go overboard as these reflect very brightly as you’ll see in the photo below.


My running group was very impressed by them and helped me to take some photos!

So, what happens when you put them through the washing machine? Well, so far (after one wash) they remain securely fastened to my shirt. I did not tumble dry.

Here’s a picture of the shirt just out of the washing machine. You can see it hasn’t lifted at all from the material. I let the shirt hang to dry before wearing again.


Each pack (at time of posting) costs $14.95 from the Brilliant Reflective website. I could easily treat 2-3 items per pack, so that’s great value in my opinion. A small price to pay to increase your visibility and overall safety.

Aside from using on every other piece of outdoor running gear that I have, I couldn’t help thinking of all the other (non-running) uses for these.

My kids walk to the bus stop in the dark every morning. These strips will be going on their school bags and instrument cases so people driving in their cars have a better chance of seeing them crossing the road.

I should put a couple on my mail box to (hopefully) prevent people from reversing into it (has happened twice already).

If you park your car on the road, put one or two on your car bumpers/fenders so that other drivers won’t clip it on the way past. Same goes for trash cans if they sit at the side of the road to be emptied.

Can you think of any more?

Would you like to try them out? The code ” BRP25″ saves 25% off of all Multi/Assortment Packs over at the Brilliant Reflective website.





Added: Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, Raleigh NC

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!

I just signed up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Raleigh, NC on April 8th. It’ll be my second ever Half Marathon and my first time running a Rock ‘n’ Roll series race.

(I’m very excited about how my race schedule is shaping up. It’s only January and I already have more races on my 2018 calendar than I raced last year).

I love the buzz of BIG races, and running through city streets with thousands of other runners. Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh hosted 9000 runners last year! How could I pass up this opportunity to run the streets of Raleigh, when I only live down the road?!

I’ve known about the Rock ‘n’ Roll series races for a number of years, but was not running at the level needed to sign up for a half or full marathon. This year that is changing. I’m running my first half in March this year, and then the Rock ‘n’ Roll half in April.

Goal Time

For my first half marathon in March, I’m aiming for 1h50m. That’ll be a 10min PR for me. I’m considering making use of a pacing group to help me attain the correct pace throughout.

However, after looking over the Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh course, it’s going to be considerably more HILLY.

I mapped the official half marathon course out in Strava and it has an elevation gain of 763ft, which is around 2-3 times the elevation gain of my average training run.

So based on that, I’ll be happy to finish it in just under 2 hours. Of course, I may change this goal based on the results of my first half. 🙂

Hills Hills Hills

When I’ve heard people talk of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh race, they would usually mention how hilly it was in the same sentence — and it is — the organizers know it as well.

On the website they have a great mile-by-mile breakdown of the route so runner’s know what hills to expect throughout.

While my running crew will tell you I’m not shy of the odd hill, it’s always good to be prepared and know what to expect in a race. This lets you know when you can let go and give it all you’ve got! Crucial information!

Race Prep

So aside from training on some more hilly terrain, and becoming familiar with the course, what else should I be doing to get ready?

I have already gone over to Athlinks and added my name to the start line for Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh. That way I can see who the competition is, not that I’m competitive or anything! I notice there’s a few of my BibRave peeps running it as well. Looking forward to meeting them!

After the race I can go back there and claim my results. It’s cool to have all my results in one place.


I also carefully checked out the race rules, and there is no mention of a earphone ban, so I will work on a playlist and run with my AfterShokz Trekz Airs! These earphones don’t even sit in your ears, so you can listen to your music and not zone out of your surroundings. Amazing!


Thinking of signing up for this race? I have a discount code for you. Use code RNRBRP2018 to take $15 off the half marathon!


Running Products: Brilliant Reflective, pjuractive and BibBoards!

So, it’s January and you may have decided to start running as one of your New Year resolutions. Heck, you might even have stuck to it — keep it up! Or you might be a seasoned runner who’s taken only a few rest days in the last few years. Well, for you and everyone in between, here’s some running products I’ve come across recently that you may find useful.

Brilliant Reflective Strips

I generally don’t do a great job of staying visible in the dark. In fact, most of my running clothes are either black or grey. Doh! These reflective strips from Brilliant Reflective come in Iron On, or Stick On varieties, and also in multiple colors.

pjuractive 2skin

This is one I could definitely use. pjuractive 2skin is an anti-chafing gel. I would be prone to a little chafing, especially on longer runs. Just this morning I wore my new club shirt and my poor nipples have been sore all day. TMI?


These interest me. On one of my last races, part of the swag was a set of magnets to hold your bib. One of my magnets was broken, so I didn’t use them. A friend who was also running that race did try the magnets and regretted doing so. However, these BibBoards look like they would hold the bib securely. Anyone tried these?